Events and bookshops!

I’ve had a fabulous weekend at the end of April. On Saturday April 29th I was at the Llandeilo LitFest, sharing a Time Travel panel with Jasper Fforde, author of the wonderful Thursday Next series. An alarming number of people attended – I’m a bit like Sheldon Cooper in that I worry about crowds large enough to trample me! Not that this group was anything other than beautifully behaved and trampling definitely did not occur. Everyone asked intelligent and perceptive questions – i.e. ones to which I knew the answers.

There was tea at the panel. - Photo by the lovely Jean Gill.

There was tea at the panel. Photo by the lovely Jean Gill.

We all had a bit of fun with the Have you ever written anything you regretted? question and I had to apologise all over again for the ‘sudden and acrimonious break-up of the EU,’ America closing its borders and building a wall, and for the derogatory remarks about Donald Trump’s hair. Once again, I had to deny clandestine possession of a pod although, once again, I don’t think anyone believed me. I rather think I might slip a new chapter into Book 9, detailing the unexpected break-out of world peace and general benevolence to all, just to see what happens. Fingers crossed.



And Sunday was the Booky Brunch at Octavo’s Bookshop in Cardiff, where we got down and dirty with all things St Mary’s. We talked about Ronan, the Time Police, favourite characters, favourite moments, what was the thinking behind this that and the other, how I did my research – yes, I know it looks as if I just throw the books together, but really I don’t – and so on.

We discussed plot developments, the new supernatural series, possible titles for new books and people’s strange aversion to reading anything by the well-known Regency Romance author, Isabella Barclay. The questions were many and varied, and then we tucked into the world’s best ever Eggs Benedict. Followed by mountains of toast and I managed to get marmalade on both elbows. No idea how that happened.

No rest for the wicked, because last Saturday was the Masterclass – History and Humour – which was fabulous, not least because Accent Press (All hail Accent Press) don’t let me out that often. I’m normally down in the dungeon – third manacle from the right if anyone wants to visit – typing away for dear life in the hope of extra gruel and a light touch with the electrodes.

Where was I? Yes. Sorry. Wandering the paths of whimsy again. Of course there aren’t any actual electrodes. What was I thinking? I need my hands to type – and to write more books! No, this week’s good news is my books are now available in Waterstones! The first two books of the series, Just One Damned Thing After Another and A Symphony of Echoes are up on the shelves for all to see. Just like real books. I’m so excited I’m going to have to put the kettle on.

My publisher spotted these beauties in Waterstones Cardiff this past weekend!

My publisher spotted these beauties in Waterstones Cardiff this past weekend!

And to finish … just a quick plug for an event very dear to my heart. It’s that time of year again. The annual cheese rolling (as described in A Second Chance) will take place at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucester, on 29th May this year.  I’ve been there – In younger and fitter days I did manage to get myself half way up the hill, but collapsing through lack of oxygen. The slope was so steep that even sitting down I was in danger of rolling back down again and could only stay in place by clinging, face down, to a tuft of grass. And fear not – despite what happened to Max, very few people get smacked by the cheese these days. There’s a link below to anyone who can’t make it. Someone will post a video of this year’s carnage in due course. Enjoy.

St Mary’s fanfiction short stories – week 6

The final runner-up for the fanfiction short story competition is Andy Farenden.

Excellent research and a vividly drawn word picture of a tiny snapshot in time. Nothing much seems to happen and yet quite a lot actually does. Nice to see Mrs Enderby getting out and about for a change. Congratulations on conveying a complex world in such a few words.


Mrs Enderby dipped her toes in Gunyan River letting the cool water wash over her aching feet; she wasn’t used to being out in the field. After a day on her feet exploring the fabric market, the short walk from the pod to the river in the hard-soled leather shoes had been a less than pleasurable experience. When she returned to St Mary’s she would investigate the possibility of adding some discreet cushioning to the history department’s more basic period footwear. Her security escort, a lovely young man whom Mr Markham had assigned to her, sat further back up the bank under the shade of a nearby tree rubbing his worn feet too.

The assignment from Thirsk had tasked the history department with gathering information on the construction and establishment of the Donglin Academy in 12th century Wuxi, China. Which, for a short time, was a hub of neo-Confucian philosophy and home to scholar Yang Shi. For Mrs Enderby, it was an opportunity to explore the silk trade at the height of the middle ages along the nautical route of the Silk Road.

At first Max had been unsure about bringing her along on the jump, but had given in due to the relative political stability of the era and chocolate centred bribery.

It was late August 1111; Mrs Enderby basked in the warmth of the early evening sun. She had seen a great deal today and her recorder was full of rich bright fabrics and period dress. She had even been able to visit silk makers a little further along the river.

As she sat she noticed a group of young women, who she recognised from the silk makers, approached the water’s edge a little way off. They carried a large shallow bucket between them. Carefully, they began emptying water back in to the river filtering it through their hands. Mrs Enderby realised that they must be draining the water from soaked silk worm cocoons and trying not to let the last precious fibres escape. She drew a pocket-sized notebook and pencil from the secret fold within her dress and began to sketch them.

As the light began to fade and the young ladies finished their task a lamp lighter rounded the corner and began to light the lanterns that illuminated the path around the river’s edge. Mrs Enderby sighed, patted her feet dry with the base of her skirt – something that she would chastise a historian for doing – and slipped her feet back in to her shoes. Rising, she dusted herself off and headed back up the shallow bank to her escort.  She smiled at him as he rose to join her. Today had been a good day. Wearily, they made their way back to the pod to re-join the rest of the team.

Mrs. Enderby sagged into her seat as someone passed her a cup of tea; she felt bone tired but satisfied. The historians completed the F.O.D check, took their seats and the world went white.

St Mary’s fanfiction short stories – week 5

Hello everyone! We’re here for another of the St Mary’s fanfiction short stories competition entries. This week it’s Kyrsty Hardy’s turn.

This was lovely. I’m so pleased Dr Bairstow had a happy ending for once. In fact, he’s figured prominently in all the entries. Obviously a favourite character. I really like the ending and the nicely understated image of the two of them dancing the night away. And huge professional congratulations on managing to fit Roanoke, a fire, a flood, a skeleton and the Queen’s Jubilee into only 500 words!


It was against Bairstow’s better judgement to send the usual suspects, but with Bashford concussed, and everyone else at a Tudor wedding, an urgent request from Thirsk left only Maxwell, Peterson and Markham available to jump to Roanoke. They had returned suspiciously meekly, and something was clearly amiss.

Standing in his favoured interrogation pose, Bairstow summoned them. Markham was quick to defend himself.  “Sir, I was just trying to keep the kids in blue safe. The fire came from nowhere, and I can’t explain the flood. Ask Max; Major Guthrie says it’s always her”.

Maxwell grinned, always a cause for concern.

“Dr Maxwell, explain.”

Peterson interjected. “No need for concern, sir. A minor fire, a little water, no time police. A roaring success”.

“Indeed sir” Maxwell began in the tone that meant trouble “and I think the skeleton was ok. I mean, I didn’t check, but we weren’t struck down, so History must be happy”

Bairstow was not persuaded. “I don’t share this optimism. You will return immediately and ensure History is intact.”

“But sir, we can’t go, we’re already there.”

“Who’s available?” Bairstow demanded.

“Bashford, who doesn’t know who he is, Chief Farrell… and you sir.”

Bairstow sighed “Farrell and I, then. I shall deal with you when we return.”

An hour later, Leon initiated the jump. The world went white. And then, it went red, white and blue…

“Chief, we appear to be in the wrong century” Bairstow checked the readout.  “Please explain how my Chief Technical Officer has confused the 1500s and the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Have you had too many sleep deprived nights with my godson? Or have you finally succumbed to the foolishness that afflicts my entire unit.”

“No, sir, we are exactly where I intended us to be. Look, Edward”

Viewing the Mall through the screens, Bairstow saw a familiar figure. He caught his breath, and started for the door, before stopping with visible effort

“Why would you do this? I cannot go out there.”

“You can; Annie was left behind when the team jumped back due to an injury, and spent the evening alone before a rescue party arrived.” Bairstow thought back “I was on another jump. She never spoke about it, she just said she danced…”

He looked again at the lonely figure of his lost love. As he watched, another familiar figure appeared behind her, dressed in toga and sandals, looked directly at the camera, and nodded, before disappearing.

“The 100 year rule?”

“Our childhoods are far enough in the future, sir. St Mary’s won’t arrive for 5 hours.”

“What shall I say?”

“Edward, if anyone can navigate this situation, it is you.”

Bairstow subtly checked his reflection in a monitor, and reached the door before turning back.

“Leon, I…”

“An honour and a privilege, Edward.”  Bairstow placed his cane to one side, and left the pod. Tonight, he would dance with the girl he loved. Farrell closed the door, and put the kettle on.  “Happy birthday, sir”.

St Mary’s fanfiction short stories – week 4

Welcome to week 4 of the St Mary’s fanfiction short stories. This weeks story is by Vicky Garlic and the first thing that came to my mind was: Seriously?

Only Sykes could manage to get herself propositioned by Fat Harry himself. And on his way to his own wedding, too! Has she no shame? Nicely written and the dialogue really pushes the story along.


The Flanders Mare Fiasco: 6th January 1540, Greenwich, London. A nice, simple observe and document jump, or at least it should have been. My name’s Max and I work for St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research where we investigate major historical events in contemporary time, don’t call it time travel.

Our latest assignment was to jump to 1540 and witness the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Why her? Simple really, to find out whether she was as unattractive as everyone said. It’s well known that Anne was said to look nothing like her portrait and Henry wanted out of the marriage as soon as he’d said ‘I do’. Well it was actually a bit sooner than that.

Peterson landed the pod with a bump (I really should stop him from driving) and he, Sykes, North, Markham and I headed towards Greenwich Palace where we hoped to see a glimpse of the fabled Anne. We managed to bustle our way to a good viewing position and I’m almost certain I would have had a perfect view of the new Queen had we not lost Markham and Sykes on the way.

“Markham? Sykes? Report”

“Oh, hi Max,” Sykes replied in her typically cheery voice, “Everything’s fine.”

“Where are you?”

“We took a wrong turn and…oh my god!”


“Oh it’s nothing,” Sykes replied making me tense up.

“Markham, report?”

A long silence.


“We’re fine Max,” he finally replied in an equally cheery voice. I groaned internally. “What’s going on? Where are you?”

“It’s okay,” Markham replied a little too quickly, “We’re on our way back now; we just had a little misunderstanding.”

“A misunderstanding? With who?”

“No one important,” he said airily. I ground my teeth as I saw them enter into view and strode towards them trying to look menacing as the two of them just grinned at me.


“Umm,” Sykes said.

“Well…” Markham said.

“Someone better answer me,” I threatened.

“I might have been propositioned,” Sykes finally replied.

“By who?”

“Henry,” they responded in unison.

I started, “King Henry?” They nodded slowly. “How?”

“Like I said we took a wrong turn.”

I just stared.

“It’s okay, Markham explained I was already spoken for and he seemed to accept it.”

“Peterson, where are you?”

“We’re in the crowd,” Tim replied, “just seen Anne and seriously Max her description as the Flanders Mare is unnervingly accurate.”

“Never mind that now,” I said, “get yourselves back to the pod, we might have outstayed our welcome.”


“Come on you two,” I said glaring at them as they continued to smile.

We miraculously evaded capture/imprisonment/beheading so Henry must have decided to go through with his wedding to the unattractive Anne. Turns out Peterson wasn’t exaggerating about that bit and they had the footage to prove it; Dr. Bairstow would be happy with that at least. I heaved a sigh of relief, settled myself at the console, programmed the return coordinates and initiated the jump. The world went white.

St Mary’s fanfiction short stories – week 3

Another Thursday, another St Mary’s fanfiction short story entry from the competition. This weeks offering is by Alison Clements.

A lovely modern twist to a great St Mary’s story. It’s very tempting to speculate on just how much trouble Max, Markham and Peterson could have got up to at Woodstock. Dr Bairstow is on good form as well.



‘Sir!’ I must be firm. Since Matthew my body is no longer the temple of perfection it once was and I doubt it will withstand public scrutiny.’

Dr Bairstow sighed. ‘Not for the first time, Dr Maxwell, I believe you are over-estimating the assignment’s requirements. As I understand it, nudity was entirely optional. Besides, I hardly think the declothing incident participants were universally blessed with bodily perfection.’

‘But really’, I continued, ‘Woodstock? It’s barely history, and everyone knows they got naked and frolicked for days high on dubious chemicals, flower power and free love. What else could Thirsk possibly need to know?’

He looked at me over the top of his glasses. ‘You are there to gauge what proportion of the crowd were there due to the rumour that Bob Dylan might appear. Besides, we are deficient in both cashflow and goodwill with Thirsk and – perhaps with misguided optimism – I feel that this simple assignment should help to address both.’

‘Returning to the free love point, sir. Peterson and Markham are fine-looking specimens, but it’s way more than my job’s worth to court that sort of trouble from Helen and Hunter’. ‘Or Leon’, I added after a brief pause. ‘But mostly Helen. Don’t make me do this, sir.’

‘Let me repeat myself Dr Maxwell. Joining. In. Is. Not. Compulsory.’

I had still not given up on squirming out of this. ‘Does the 20th century really deserve to be exposed (and I mean that in both senses of the word) to Markham and Peterson in all their glory? Because if you think I’m going to be able to stop them getting naked then you are sadly overestimating my superpowers.’

‘I have every confidence in you Dr Maxwell, and if not then I suppose it will save Mrs Enderby some costume work. Although,’ he paused thoughtfully, ‘I know she was very much looking forward to making you a tie-dyed kaftan. Or perhaps a miniskirt?’

I looked at him. There was no hint of humour on his raptor-like features.

‘Just one more thing, sir.’ I had cunningly saved my best argument until last. ‘Surely our British accents will attract unwelcome attention as soon as we speak?’

His face adopted the sort of expression usually seen on a fox which has just discovered an unlatched henhouse. ‘I cannot account for any attention that your inimitable style might attract, of course. But the American borders did not close until well into this century. You will be seen as exotic, and perhaps a little eccentric …’

(‘Absolutely no ‘perhaps’ about it’, I thought …)

‘… but your accents will not in themselves attract undue attention. Stay out of the mud, and enjoy the music. I understand Joan Baez was at her divine best.’

I turned to leave, and passing an amused-looking Mrs Partridge I could have sworn I heard the faintest hum of Blowin’ in the Wind emanating from somewhere. But whether it came from Mrs Partridge or Dr Bairstow himself I couldn’t say.

Daydreaming in the Dark

Insomnia – that moment at twenty past two when you abandon all hope of getting back to sleep, go downstairs to put the kettle on and have a think about how to pass the long dark hours.

I generally take my tea back to bed, fold my arms, scowl at the wall opposite and have a bit of a think. I let my mind wander –  even more so than usual – and wait to see what turns up. Snatches of dialogue, bits of plot, disconnected fragments of ideas, it all rises to the surface rather like the scum you get when boiling bones.

The big thing is not to panic – or lie, jaw clenched, thinking I must go to sleep, I must go to sleep, over and over again. That really doesn’t work.

I’ve always slept badly. Ten or fifteen years ago I barely slept at all. I don’t remember being particularly bothered by this – although I did learn that falling asleep at half past six in the morning just in time for the alarm to go off at seven really wasn’t a good idea. Thirty minutes’ sleep is much worse than none at all.

I learned to daydream in the dark, working out plots and putting together characters without the slightest idea any of it would ever see the light of day, far less be of interest to anyone else. And then, when I’d designed Hawking Hangar, peopled it with technicians, decided what they’d wear, how they’d behave and so on, I’d get up and go to work. I wasn’t aware of any ill effects of only two or three hours sleep a night – although you might want to check with my colleagues for a more accurate assessment. For all I know I was staggering around like the Living Dead, but owing to sleep deprivation, considerably less amenable.

There was another Attack of the Fifty Foot Insomnia last night. I tell you now, there was a lot of wall scowling at going on at twenty past two this morning. On the other hand, I may have resolved a knotty plot problem in Book 9 – yes, it is coming along, but very slowly. This one’s a difficult book to write. I also clarified the outline for the sequel to White Silence, made some notes for a possible sequel to the sequel of White Silence, had a bit of a think about this year’s Christmas Story, discarded my idea for this year’s Christmas Story, briefly considered a stand-alone contemporary romance, dwelt for a moment on my next Regency novel, and spent some time thinking about the Time Police. It’s only a small bedroom but I think you’ll agree – I pack a lot in. Although now I’ve typed that it does occur to me that some people might get the wrong idea. Shame on you.

Anyway, I’m sitting here, with my umpteenth cup of tea and my writing schedule mapped out for the next four years. My point being that even insomnia can be advantageous. The opportunities to scowl, uninterrupted, at a wall for hours on end during the day are fairly limited.


In a separate but probably related issue – I had my first coffee yesterday. I didn’t mean to – I was seduced by the word ‘chocolate’. I was out for lunch and we were studying the desert menu. The only really chocolatey thing was ‘Three artisanal truffles served with an Americano.’ Having no idea what an American was, but with a vague hope it might be Matt Damon related, I ordered, and found myself confronted with three tiny but delicious chocolates, together with a small jug of the Devil’s Juice or milk as everyone else calls it – and a cup of what I initially took to be engine oil. Turned out an Americano is a coffee. Who knew?

However, not one to avoid a challenge, I closed my eyes and sipped. It wasn’t that bad. A bit weird, but not bad. At the urging of others, I was induced to pour in a drop of milk. Still not bad. I would have preferred ice cream but apparently, that’s not an option for serious coffee drinkers.

So there we go – coffee and insomnia! Could they be connected? You read it here first!

Short story competition: the winners (part 2)

We’re back on the regular schedule posting the short stories entered into the Comic Con competition. Ready?

This following short story was written by the lovely Sophie Griffiths. A very nice story – excellent historical research and well presented. And an idea worthy of Professor Rapson at his very best. Great ending!


Dr Bairstow started the meeting, his face expressionless.

‘You know someone in Rushford called the RSPCA. You are lucky none of them were hurt, apart from the paint.  What you were thinking?’

‘St. Olga of Kiev ‘replied Professor Rapson, shifting uneasily in his chair.  Dr Bairstow raised an eyebrow awaiting a fuller explanation. ‘Okay – formerly Princess Olga of Kiev, born in the 9th Century.  Her husband was killed by Drevlians, and they hoped to marry her to their leader. But she was quite vicious – so she buried the first set of ambassadors alive and I think the second lot she burned alive. Um…she invited the remaining soldiers to a feast, where she got them drunk and ordered her soldiers to kill them.  By this time the Drevlians were rightly scared of her, it was said she killed 5000 men at the feast. I’m not sure if that is true. I mean – for example how much food you would need for a feast for 5000– perhaps I could look into it-‘

‘All very interesting Andrew, please explain what this has to do with 20 purple pigeons residing on roofs from here to Rushford’

‘Well she went to invade the Drevlians, they didn’t want to fight but couldn’t give her tribute; instead she asked for doves and sparrows from each house. She tied sulphur to the birds’ legs. When the doves went home to roost in the buildings, sulphur sets the wood alight and burns the village to the ground.’

‘I wanted to see if it was possible. I thought pigeons are easy to get hold of; we can’t use sulphur –obviously. Then I hit upon the idea of paint. If made small DIY theatrical squibs – like the ones they use for fake gunshots – with purple paint so  we can see where they land and how effective it would be, where the fires would start etc.’

Dr Bairstow looked out the window; purple paint trickling down the panes.  ‘Very effective I should say’ he sighed. ‘Please see Mrs Partridge for deductions from wages slip Professor. As no animals were actually hurt – just scared witless and dyed purple I will smooth things over with the RSPCA. Be aware I will take a dim view of you using any more live animals for your research.’

Professor Rapson slunk back to the office for tea, thinking of researching the feeding of the five thousand. Outside Mr Strong was cleaning walls and muttering. Markham and Evans of the Security section, and historians Peterson and Maxwell were holding a ‘Catch the Pigeon’ competition, to see who could catch the most purple pigeons which were then cleaned and released. They were grateful it wasn’t the swans this time.

Dr Bairstow looked through a splattered window; a single non-purple pigeon was flying, a small theatrical squib, unburst, attached to its leg. He wondered where it would land, when the squib would go off. Most of all he wondered: ‘How on earth did Olga become a saint?’

Desiccated water

I should be working. I should actually be researching Persian female apparel circa 300BC. I should be absorbed in textiles and patterns and styles and not in any way thinking about Professor Rapson. I shouldn’t be imagining putting my feet up and drinking wine with Peterson. I certainly shouldn’t be staring out of the window listening to an imaginary conversation between Max and Professor Rapson. I’m never going to be a proper author at this rate …


Desiccated Water

I was on my way to Peterson’s office for our Friday afternoon meeting. The one where he opens out a bottle of wine, I get out the glasses, and we both put our feet up and have a huge moan about the previous week. Sometimes the meetings are quite long.

Anyway, I was making my way around the gallery, juggling the half dozen or so files I’d brought with me as camouflage – because it doesn’t do the other ranks any good at all to see a couple of senior officers setting a bad example – although, to be fair, most people were outside watching the Security and Technical Sections eviscerate each other in the name of sport – when Professor Rapson erupted – literally – from his lab shouting, ‘Eureka!’

He was fully clothed. Trust me – it was the first thing I checked.

I said, ‘Good afternoon professor,’ because that’s how Markham would do it. Apparently now he’s Head of Security, standards must be maintained. What sort of standards of course, he never says.

‘Ah Max. Good news. I’ve done it.’

‘So I gathered, professor. Jolly well done.’

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I know it’s been a while but we got there in the end.’

‘Excellent news, professor’ I said, trying to ignore the glass of wine shaped hole in my life and failing dismally. ‘I look forward to reading your report.’

‘No, no, you don’t understand, Max. I’ve really done it.’

I stopped thinking about wine and concentrated. This was Professor Rapson after all. I asked the question I should have led with.

‘Exactly what have you done professor?’

‘Well, as you know Max, water is very heavy.’

I stared at him. He looked comparatively normal. His hair was standing on end. He had a huge acid burn on one sleeve of his lab coat of which he appeared

completely oblivious and was wearing one brown and one black shoe, so as I said – normal.

He was, however, waving around a beaker of clear fluid. I stepped back because it could be anything. The Elixir of Life. Cerebral brain fluid – although if it was his it would probably be a little murkier. An untraceable deadly poison that would kill us all in seconds. Anything, really.

He raised the beaker to his lips and drank deeply. I braced myself but nothing dreadful seemed to happen to him.

‘Water, Max. Water. I’ve done it.’ He raised the empty beaker. I half expected a flash of lightning and shouts of ‘It’s alive! It’s alive!’ but that usually relates to Markham.

‘What were you expecting, professor?’

‘Well, water, obviously, Max.’

Never had a glass of wine seemed so far away.

‘Professor, please tell me – what is the project you’ve been working on?’

‘Oh yes, of course. Well, as I said, Max, water is heavy. Leon’s always complaining about the weight of the tanks and how that messes up his calculations and he’s right so I thought I’d have a go.’

‘At what, professor?’

‘Desiccated water.’

Oh God …


‘Desiccated water, Max. Powdered water. The answer to all our problems. We reduce water down to a fine powder, bag it up in plastic and hey presto, portable water. No more tanks, no more heavy water bottles – just stick a couple of packs in you supplies and away you go. Small packs for your pocket. Something larger if you want a bath. Simple. Quick. Easy. Convenient.’

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘That’s brilliant professor. Well done.’

‘Thank you,’ he said modestly.’ I’m just off to show Chief Farrell.’

‘He’ll be thrilled,’ I said, happily sacrificing Leon’s Friday afternoon, but wine deprivation can do that to a girl. ‘You must give him a complete demonstration. Several, in fact.’

‘I will,’ he said, hair standing even more on end as he prepared to depart at top speed.

‘Just one question, professor.’


‘How do you reconstitute the powder?’


‘The powder. How exactly do you reconstitute desiccated water?’

‘Oh, that’s easy.’


He regarded me as an idiot.

‘You just add water.’



Pssst: you can still pre-order And The Rest Is History right here 😉


Short story competition: the winners (part 1)

Hello everyone!

Finally the time is here: here is the first of our fanfiction short story competition winners! A selection of the other entries will be posted once a week for the next couple of weeks.

Bruce Pavier was the first of our winners with this story exploring Ancient Greece. What can I say? Bruce managed to insert Roman numerals into an Ancient Greek story and bring it off perfectly. I loved this story. The phrase, ‘As useless as a luminous Markham’ deserves to go down in History. Brilliant!


The pod landed gently, pushing the dust up like brown cotton wool.  Max, Peterson and Mr Markham released their seat belts and took stock of the situation.

‘Well’, said Max, ‘Here we are in Ancient Greece and with only 500 words to put the story across. No pressure then’.

They did the usual checks of the immediate area and then loaded up their rucksacks with Egg sandwiches, packets of crisps and a Thermos Flask of Tea each. Peterson hit the button and the door opened. They stepped out into a warm morning’s sun. The scent of flowers and food drifted on the slight breeze.

‘Right’, said Max, ’We are here to find Hercules and discovery the truth behind the Myth of his feats of incredible strength. The first thing we need to do is synchronise our Sun dials’. Lifting up her wrist she said ‘I have V past VIII’.

‘Concur with that’, said Peterson and turned to Mr Markham. Mr Markham was shaking his wrist. ‘I think mine has stopped. I make it II past V’. He held his wrist to his ear. ‘Yes. Definitely stopped. I cannot hear it ticking at all’.

Peterson grabbed Markham’s wrist and looked at the Sundial. ‘You idiot’, he said,’ Of course it is stopped. It is covered in paint’.

‘Well yes’, said a rather miffed Mr Markham,’ I expected us to be here for some time so I put some luminous paint on it so I could tell the time when it got dark’.

‘You should use a torch like any other sensible person’, said Peterson. (This, of course, was the origin of that famous Ancient Greek expression – ‘As useless as a luminous Markham’).

They walked into the town centre and got directions to where Hercules could be found. To their surprise it was a small shop and sitting on a step outside was a stick of a man.

‘Excuse me’, said Max,’ but would you be so kind as to get Mr Hercules for us’

‘I am he’, said the stick.

‘But I was expecting someone much bigger, someone who could do feats of amazing strength’.

‘Ah,’ said Hercules,’ I see your problem. Come with me’ and he lead them through the shop to a courtyard. In the courtyard was a Scribe writing furiously on a clay tablet. In front of him were six men shouting out words.

Hercules turned to our heroes.  ‘Predictive text,’ he said, ’always a problem and no spell checker. When my exploits were written down they transposed ‘Feet’ for ‘Feat’. You see I am a Chiropodist and my motto is ‘You must have amazingly strong feet’ so you can see where the misunderstanding could have arisen. The saga should have read ‘Hercules and his amazing FEET of strength.’

Back at the pod our confused explorers sat for some length in silence.

‘That was silly’, said Markham.

‘I agree’, replied Max, ’Right , Home and Beer’

The world went white.

What a weekend!

These last few days been a bit of a holiday for me – and much needed. I’ve left Max contemplating 1399 without very much enthusiasm and my new heroine, Elizabeth Cage, being menaced by a telephone. Because these things happen. I myself am regularly terrorised by balloons. I’m all right if someone’s already blown them up and they’re high on the wall out of range, but stand in front of me and blow up a balloon and I have to leave the room. And work on the St Mary’s Christmas story has ground to a halt while I have a look at crinolines and geese.

Anyway, Friday was afternoon tea at Octavo’s Book Shop in Cardiff, and a chance to combine meeting friends, talking about St Mary’s and gorging myself on cupcakes at the same time. Fortunately, I did get most of it the right way round. I’m not that good at eating and talking simultaneously so it did become a little messy at times, so belated apologies if I inadvertently sprayed you with cupcake crumbs.

If you get the chance, there’s also a filmed interview with me on The Gin Book Club where I talk, more or less coherently, about my books and how I write. As soon as we have the link I’ll share it to the world… Safety warning – there’s a lot of arm waving!

Saturday and Sunday were Comic Con, of course, and that was tremendously exciting. Huge thanks to all the masses of people who turned up for a quick gossip. I’m sorry it was a little chaotic at times. Given the queues, it was a good thing we had plenty of room to spread out, although a lot of that might have been because we were outside the Gents – where we were frequently overwhelmed by Jedi knights, Stormtroopers, Dr Who in all his incarnations, zombies, and many others who, I suspected, had left it too late to extricate themselves from their costumes with grace and dignity.

If you couldn’t make it – sorry to have missed you. And if you could – lovely to have met you. Staggeringly, some people had come miles just for this event – Portugal, I think was the furthest away. Southampton, East Anglia, the Midlands, just down the road – the place was full of St Mary’s fans who’d loaded up on tea and chocolate and made the journey. Thank you all very much indeed. I hope you all enjoyed yourself as much as I did.

And now it’s back to work. Max – ungrateful little scamp – has completely failed to extricate herself from the peril in which I left her, so I suppose it’s up to me to do all the heavy lifting again!